ellestra: (winged)
Between terrorist attacks and cancer this was a depressing week.

I just opened the news and there was another attack today. This time in Burkina Faso with 20 people dead and burning buildings but at least over 30 people were rescued by police forces. Yesterday, it was Istanbul in the historic district and targeted German tourists and planned by Russian nationals. And two days ago Jakarta where luckily only 2 people died. The reports said it was rushed and poorly organised because Indonesian police was closing on them and they didn't have time to plan it properly. And the week started with the bombings in Iraq. All of these are connected to Daesh.

Of course there is no real comparison between this and cancer.

Terrorist attacks are made of the belief that your truth is so much more important that anyone else's that you will make them listen no matter what. Sometimes it's because of helplessness and lack of hope. But most of the time it's malice and treating other people as disposable. If they don't believe in your truth then they deserve to die. This self-importance and feeling that you are more right and therefore justified is not unique to those who explode themselves to kill others or shoot at crowds but not everyone goes to this extreme. In a way this is why everyone just rolls their eyes (and sends dildos) to the guys in Oregon. We all wish all terrorist would seclude themselves in frozen wilderness.

Cancer kills way more people. It happens everyday, all around us as people die of cancer, often in great pain, so we erase that fact from our minds to be able to live our lives. Until it's someone we know. Family, friends, celebrities who impacted our lives. And then the feeling of helplessness comes back. And fear - who else will be lost (us, maybe?). For most of us terrorist, while scary is a far away problem except of course where terror is an everyday occurrence but thankfully that's still small fragment of the world). For most people terrorist attack is random and unlikely like earthquakes or tornadoes. Cancer is real and close. I'm sure you all have a list in your head of those lost. My grandfather's tumour was not malignant and for a while it seemed like it could be OK. My aunt's was like Bowie's and Rickman's of internal organs so deep in the abdomen that by the time it started giving symptoms it was already too late. I feel like besides breast/prostate check we should all have regular abdomen ultrasounds. Maybe at least some of those would get noticed when there is still time.

Maybe then we will have a little more moments spent together. Some more songs. Few more movies.

Tributes can wait (it's not like The Simpsons are ending any time soon)
ellestra: (telamon)
I was to write about the Expanse (and other new Syfy series) but I just read Rhianna Pratchett's obituary for her father and the screen is a little blurry. If you didn't read it go now. Space battles can wait till tomorrow.

And in the background +GNU Terry Pratchett keeps being sent.

Bad dreams

Aug. 31st, 2015 11:56 pm
ellestra: (winged)
Wes Craven died yesterday from brain tumour. He was 76. I'm not a big fan of horror (mostly because I don't find it very scary so I get stuck on illogical parts) but I liked his films - from Freddy Krueger dreamscapes (my first one was randomly A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and they do dream fighting in that one and it was awesome) to the way he played with horror tropes in Scream series (also see the New Nightmare). He put fun into watching multiple people getting murdered on screen. And now that he is gone the whole internet agrees he will hunt our nightmares. Making them properly scary - none of those naked in the office stuff.
ellestra: (lightning)
Christopher Lee died last Sunday. I've been dreading this for a while (he was 93) and now he's gone. The nicest person ever to be the embodiment of evil.
ellestra: (tiger)


I'm still unable to express my feelings, although I'm sure there is a meaning of Arghh! that encapsulates them perfectly so here are other people's thoughts and tributes:

Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Brandon Sanderson, Scott Lynch, Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing, Telegraph, io9, The Mary Sue, Wired, New Scientist, quotes from the books on Buzzfeed and tor.com - both the obituary and Jo Walton's reminiscence. All the guardian stuff including the main post, tributes, photos, obituary and Andrew Brown's reminiscence. Independent mentions his sword (that he made - from meteorite - after knighted because, obviously, knights should have swords).

Here is the link to the donation campaign in his name for The Research Institute for the Care of Older People.

Neil Gaiman talking about Terry Pratchett just a few days ago

...

Mar. 12th, 2015 12:22 pm
ellestra: (winged)
TERRY PRATCHETT IS DEAD.

– JAK SIĘ NA­ZYWA TO UCZU­CIE W GŁOWIE, UCZU­CIE TĘSKNE­GO ŻALU, ŻE RZECZY SĄ TA­KIE, JA­KIE NAJ­WY­RAŹNIEJ SĄ?
– Chy­ba smu­tek, pa­nie. A teraz...
– JES­TEM ZASMUTKOWANY.

I'm sorry about the quote being in Polish but it means more in Polish
ellestra: (cosima)
William Shatner couldn't make it to Nimoy's funeral so instead he honoured Nimoy’s memory by answering fan questions about Nimoy and their friendship on Twitter. It was announced earlier but here you can look at these Supergirls together. Here's also the first look at Sand Snakes and the weapons are pretty but for once I prefer book versions.

This is first real trailer for Orphan Black season 3 and Delphine has new hairstyle. And Rachel is alive but unresponsive.
ellestra: (winged)
Leonard Nimoy died yesterday. He was 83 and was sick for a while but it always seems so unfair that someone so awesome is no longer among us. He was still working till recently - on Star Trek movies and of course on Fringe so it was easy to forget his age. There is a lot of touching posts from people whose life he influenced and io9 has a collection of tweets from all over internet from US president to his cast mates to NASA and even from space. Tributes include Canadians turning their prime minister portrait on 5$ bills to Spock and Syfy will marathon movies and episodes with him tomorrow morning.

I was always more TNG fan and I didn't know that much about original series. Star Trek wasn't very popular in Poland so to watch it I had to rely on foreign TV. It helped me learn English first but then that was coded so I switched to German and I still think it's solely responsible for me being decent in understanding the language. My very first encounter with Star Trek was the 4th movie. It was very confusing as I had no knowledge of the characters or anything but it had spaceships and whales so it was awesome. I also saw Return of the Jedi first and read book 3 of Lord of the Rings before 2 so I'm never bothered by spoilers. But Star Trek was first. And his character seemed the most interesting even when I had no idea about the significance of anything he did. But this probably why Spock became such a cultural icon. I loved him on Fringe (especially being evil) and he also directed Three Men and a Baby. He was a poet and a photographer and wasn't above making fun of himself.

16 years

Nov. 27th, 2014 03:47 pm
ellestra: (telamon)
My cat started to feel unwell after the summer. As always he spent most of it outside. One of my uncles inherited my grandparents farm but they gave all the other kids a little piece of land each and we always spent there weekends and vacations. So whenever my mother stayed there for a week or two she would take the cat with her. Years ago I did that during vacations. The cat always loved it.

He had his best friend there - my uncle's cat. It was always fun to watch them walk everywhere together. They would fight, play and groom each other. They would sleep together in the attic. They both are black so it was sometimes hard to tell where one cat started and the other one ended. When they where tumbling together it looked like a strange creature with eight legs and two heads. They would follow each other recreating the deja vu moment from Matrix. But the funniest was when they defended their territory. No cat or dog dared to come to close. I saw my cat chase another cat up a tree and then sit below it waiting to attack it again (I had to take him away so the other cat could escape). He also attacked dogs even much, much larger than him. He once jumped on my uncle's dog (pointer/lab mix) head with claws out and chased him until the dog hid behind my uncle (I had to take the cat inside so he couldn't see the dog). He loved it there.

But this summer he just wanted to go home. And then he got sick. At first looked just like he was scratched by some other cat and one of the wounds got infected but he still had problem with eating even after the antibiotics took care of the infection. He lost a lot of weight but then started to gain it again after the problem with his back teeth was solved. Most of his teeth had to be removed. It happens to cats with age. Some of the teeth can even break off on their own.

So he got better for a little while. Then he got worse again and my parents noticed blood in his urine. It turned out to be bladder cancer. My dad just told me they had to put him to sleep - he was in too much pain.

He was 16.5 years old and he was with us for exactly 16 years - my brother brought him from the pound underneath his parka on a November evening. Back then we both lived with our parents. Now he has his own family and I'm on the other side of an ocean. I wish I could've been there. I wish he was here and I could pet him and he would sleep on me (he was always a very cuddly cat). So I'm sitting here at my friend's Thanksgiving dinner trying not to cry every time I see her cat.
ellestra: (winged)
I know I said I'm done but then today I was discussing rockets with my boss and we started talking about space travel and he couldn't remember how Virgin Galactic flight was to work so he googled it and the first thing we saw was the news. It was BBC article about the crash - it was published just 37 minutes before. Out of all the things we could've talked about...

But of course it wasn't completely accidental. We got there because we started talking about Anteres explosion. And then we got to other ways of going to space (or at least somewhere close to it) and then we saw what happened. This is not a good week to try to go to space.

At least Antares rocket was deliberately destroyed after it became apparent there was a problem to make sure it won't fall on populated area and no one was hurt. Tragically, in the SpaceShipTwo crash one of the pilots died and the other is injured.

It makes one rethink the wisdom of a contest that promises to take you on suborbital flight for a cinema ticket and remember how brave the people who go to space are. This is still a very dangerous job. (But I still want to go)
ellestra: (winged)
Originally written 2014-07-08
Terry Pratchett has announced that he will not attend of the International Discworld Convention in Manchester:

I have been putting off writing this announcement for quite some time and on good days thought I wouldn't have to write it at all," wrote the author. "I am very sorry about this, but I have been dodging the effects of PCA and have been able to write for much longer than any of us ever thought possible, but now The Embuggerance is finally catching up with me, along with other age-related ailments.

Every time I think of his work and read his books I find myself stuck between denial and fear. The books keep coming so I can pretend everything is OK but every new information about Alzheimer progressing - inability to write so he dictates his books, now this makes me think about how little time we might have left. Both these reactions are actually coming from the same place. I've always feared neurodegenerative diseases more than anything else. The thought of losing myself scares me more than any horror cancer has to offer and makes me completely sympatise with Pratchett's fight for availability of euthanasia for terminally sick people. There is a thin line between staying as long as possible and still being able to decide things like this and if you cannot count on other people following your wishes and helping you make it stop. I think I would try to commit suicide while I still could and I fear that that would be much earlier than I would really need to and that this is a really bad state of mind to be living in. So thinking about it makes me feel depressed and angry so I try to not to. And of course it's easy with a person you don't really know or meet every day. But I do care about him (I love his books and he was always very nice to fan both in my own experience and everyone else) so I hope he is going to be OK and stay with us for a while still.

PS. This was first (mostly) written a month before Robin Williams death. As I understand in his case there was also an issue of his financial problems and the drugs for Parkinson's worsening his depression. His Parkinson's disease was in early stages and that usually means years before it progresses but I understand this feeling of hopelessness as the very thought of such diagnosis makes me thing of tall buildings and when depression gets into the mix you can't see any bright sides. So I wish there was more help with dealing with terrifying inevitability of progression of these diseases and not just medicating it. But all is left now is remembering all the joy he brought countless people and hope he enjoyed at least some of it as much as we did.
ellestra: (tiger)
It's Towel Day today. I hope you all know where your towels are.


I just learned that general Jaruzelski died today. This made me feel weird as he is, for me connected to my early childhood memories. I was to young to care about politics when communism ended but old enough to remember it. So I remember liking going to 1st of May parades - I love them as we would go the whole family and then have ice cream (if it was hot) or sausages (if it was cold) after and they would give us stuff for free (hats, scarves, paper flowers and little flags - my favourite was blue with white dove on it). As I was from Warsaw we were in the big parade that walked by all the dignitaries. I remember Jaruzelski sitting there looking just like on TV with his sunglasses - my first ever celebrity spotting.

My friend (who is also Polish and here on post-doc) was run over by a car few days ago. She was on a bike and a guy decided to just drive into her. Her leg is broken and she's stuck at home. We learned that US medical care is not only overpriced but also lousy - the guy in urgent care wouldn't even wear gloves or clean her wound until she asked him to repeatedly. But she said the policemen were very nice. And even though she is stuck at home she finally has people visiting her at her flat. If only any of us understood how the whole insurance thing works... Everyone here keeps mentioning something about lawyers and that sounds scary.

But the really upsetting thing - at least to certain corners of the internet - is the fact that Edgar Wright and Marvel broke up and he's no longer the director of Ant-Man. I can't say I care either way but I always liked watching the fandom melt down over the smallest things (Quicksilver(s), Ben Affleck, Ben Affleck's Batman costume) like it's the end of the world.
ellestra: (tiger)
H. R. Giger has died on Monday at age 74. He is most known for the designs for the Alien films but I saw his paintings first as covers for the Polish sf magazine "Fantastyka". His style was so unique and easily recognisable that by the time I saw Alien I was able to recognise it. I remember thinking these aliens look just like Giger's work which is the exact opposite how most people react. Of course a lot of his work includes creatures very similar to the aliens. This was the first one of his artworks I remember and one of my favourites:
ellestra: (winged)
So I came back and I learned that Bob Hoskins died yesterday. It feels so wrong as we just watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - the only film we saw during our trip on TV - because we all love it and it still looks good after all these years. But then I realised that it has been all these years - it came out in 1988 - and time passes for everyone and I'm no longer a kid and I knew Bob Hoskins had Parkinsons and I just chose not to think about it. I loved that he mixed up very serious roles (he also played both Beria and Khrushchev which I still find amusing) with the ones that defined a lot of our childhoods - Eddie Valiant, Smee and even Mario for many (even though he hated it). I was always looking forward to seeing him in a new movie. I wish it didn't have to end so soon.
ellestra: (big gun)
There has been a lot of deaths on TV recently. It seems to be the latest fad among the shows - killing one of the main characters. There seems to be many reasons behind it - from actors wanting to leave the show to just going for pure shock value. Here are some recent ones that, for me, fell on the opposite spectrum in term of execution.

I think I was the most shocked by The Good Wife - I did not expect that at all although, in retrospect, it was foreshadowed (all those flashback scenes). It was also very well done. The whole thing is sudden and shocking and devastating but what really sells the impact it has on everyone. When Alison died on Teen Wolf I was annoyed because they didn't have to kill her to let her leave - see Rebecca's exit from The Originals or even Isaac's and lots of others form the Teen Wolf. But Wills death seemed organic and the impact on the other characters feels visceral and real. You feel the same disorientation, anger and sadness - the whole 'what? why? how could this happen?' set. The death feels like an integral part of the story. The shit that happens in life. The last time I felt like that about character death was when Derek died on T:TSCC. It makes you angry and sad but never takes you out of the story. Instead it pulls you even more in and makes it feel even more real. That's some good storytelling.

Once Upon a Time on the other hand was eyeroll worthy. The whole thing seemed rushed and pointless. Part of it comes from the fact that Neal never really became a character on the show. Balefire was a McGuffin on the show for so long that they never new what to do with him when he was there. He was an object that was the cause for all the main events in the show and a driving motive for other's behaviour but never really his own person. Even when he came back his only purpose was to be Emma's love interest - usually in some weird love triangle that felt forced and had no chemistry. And since writers seem convinced that Emma cannot be in relationship the moment she seems to have connection to anyone who seems even a little romantically inclined something horrible happens. Old sheriff died, Pinokio got turned into wood and then a kid, Neal died (twice - or at least that was everyone thought) and now Hook is cursed. But at least Hook has his own story. Neal was only ever prop for other people's stories. Even Hook's story was entwined with Neal's and he was changed by him (which kind of creeps me out of the whole Emma/Hook as Killian was sort of Neal's stepfather and bonds with Henry over that and it's weird). So this sudden death doesn't feel like a loss of a person but just a reason to give angst to Gold, Emma, Henry and Hook. Once again Neal is a plot device to further their stories. The easiest person to kill because he was barely one at all. Which is why I hated that they killed him off. The whole thing felt rushed and ridiculous. This was lazy writing and instead of being sad I feel cheated. It highlighted all the worst problems of the OUaT storytelling and I'm irrationally upset about it.I didn't even care about Neal this much but this was so awful that I just want to rewrite the history just to have something less awful.
ellestra: (lightning)
I was supposed to write about something else. It was half way done when I left to meet with friends. I was to finish it when I got back. But just as I sat at the computer I realised that there was water leaking somewhere. I could hear water dripping and trickling somewhere. I followed the sound to the water heater/Ac compartment and it was all wet. At first I thought I had a leak but then I realised the water was coming down the water pipes from the flat above. And it was getting worse.

I went upstairs to try to warn the guy who lives there. It was already almost midnight so I was thinking he was sleeping while his place flooded over. After banging on the door several times I realised he probably wasn't there. His neighbour confirmed that suspicion. She also tried to call him but it was late and he never answered. I called the maintenance and waited for an hour for the guy to come. Before he turned the water off and I could finally go to sleep it was after 2 a.m. All because the seals on the water metre got loose.

The room where the water heater is smells like wet plaster and the wall are full of cracks. This is plaster drywall after all - treated with water it just loses shape and dissolves. The stains are all over that wall and on the ceiling. I don't know how the apartment upstairs look likes but the one below has all the water.

I woke up before 8 a.m. because the bank called to get me to confirm a transaction. I twisted something in my left wrist and now it hurts when I move it up and down. Then I got up and forgot I moved a couch away from the wet wall so I hit it with my right foot and tore the nail of my little toe. And when I got to work it turned out a fridge malfunctioned and lots of very expensive reagents melted.

So this was not a very good day and that was even before I learned that Harold Ramis died. So I'm going to leave this under yesterday's post. Lost among the old updates.
ellestra: (lightning)
Today is the anniversary of Columbia space shuttle accident. It's been 11 years but I can still clearly recall the pictures of the burning fragments in the sky. On 28th it was the anniversary of Challenger destruction . I also remember that - I was already in bed but I could hear the TV and I didn't want to believe it. I always loved space shuttles - from their orca colouring to ceramic skin to the rides on bigger planes. Seeing Enterprise was the highlight of my last New York trip even though it never went to space. The Apollo 1 wasn't even going to space but the deaths that occurred in 1967 on 27th of January when the fire broke out in the crew capsule during a ground.

All this dates being clustered so close together led to NASA declaring 31st of January Day of Remembrance for those fallen during space exploration. Even though there has been a human being in outer space constantly for over 13 years now space is still as dangerous as ever. And everyone going there is a hero.

ellestra: (tiger)
I was so busy at work and so occupied by Doctor Who outside of it that I only learned today that Frederick Sanger died on Tuesday.

For someone like me his name is forever associated with Sanger sequencing - the first and until recently most widely used method of sequencing DNA - finding out the order of nucleotides in genomes that let us understand how they work. Now it has been largely supplanted by Next Generation Sequencing methods that are much faster and have higher throughput but Sanger sequencing is still used by many to sequence small DNA samples (it takes forever to use it for whole genomes). It's till the most accurate method, especially for longer fragments. That was his second Nobel award.

His firs Nobel came from as revolutionary protein sequencing. Back when he started it wasn't sure if the proteins have some definitive composition and when he determined complete amino acid sequence of the two polypeptide chains of bovine insulin he has shown that proteins have a defined chemical composition - an amino acid sequence.

His work changed all our lives - from diabetics who get insulin shots to all the products of genomic studies. To me - he made my field possible. Molecular genetics wouldn't be what it is without him.
ellestra: (winged)
Frederik Pohl died yesterday. I know this is unavoidable but it still feels so sad. All the golden era writers go away one by one. I'm just old enough (and started reading sf back when we only had few authors published in Poland so it was usually the most acclaimed ones) to have been raised on their books. Clarke, Harrison, Pohl.

He wrote his last book with Arthur C. Clarke in 2008. He maintained a blog - The Way The Future Blogs till the end and he died 93. He won a Hugo as a Fan Writer for it in 2010. I hope I will be as current with the tech at his age. He never stopped being connected to the future.

I leave you with Neil Gaiman's tribute.
ellestra: (winged)
Sławomir Mrożek died today. He was one of the most esteemed Polish writers - one of those who always get mentioned as possible Nobel winners. Despite long battle with cardiovascular disease he wrote his last play this year. He wrote a lot of things but I will always remember him for his satirical short stories - especially Wesele w Atomicach (Wedding in Atomville) which (along with Lem's Fables for Robots) was the only SF we had in school. Of course we also learned why it wasn't SF but I was just happy they were forced to admit it had any value because Mrożek wrote it. I'm still grateful to him for that experience. Even though I no longer care about validation to made the kid me happy. I'm sad he won't write anything any more but I'm sure his work will make people have feels for a long time to come.

May 2016

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